University of Tennessee student launches new ride share run by students

11/22/2017

It's easy to spot Ryan Cunningham's Jeep Cherokee as it pulls through Circle Park Drive on the University of Tennessee campus.

The Jeep, aside from being immaculately clean for a college student's vehicle, is identifiable by the green and white "Campus Car" logo on the outside.

Cunningham, who wears a white polo shirt embroidered with a matching logo, stops precisely where he's scheduled to pick up some riders, in this case a reporter and photographer who are looking for a quick tour of campus.

Welcome to Campus Car, a new ride-share platform that Cunningham started this fall to help meet demand for short-distance travel around the University of Tennessee and downtown Knoxville.

"I used to get Uber drivers on game days, and they’re coming in from Atlanta or Chattanooga just to reap our money," said Cunningham, 20, a junior majoring in supply chain management. "So I wanted to create more of a local economy on campus as well as a better atmosphere for students to feel safer."

The service, which is similar to other ride share platforms like Uber or Lyft, prides itself on being student-owned and operated.

Like those companies, Campus Car uses a smartphone app to connect drivers and riders. Riders type in the address of the location they want to go to and within minutes a Campus Car driver will arrive to take them to their destination.

But there are also a couple of ways the company differs from its corporate competitors.

An app for student drivers

Both Uber and Lyft require their drivers to be at least 21 years of age, but Campus Car allows drivers at least 19 years of age to work.

The app launched Oct. 25, and so far all nine of Campus Car's drivers are students. A requirement of the app is that drivers must be affiliated with the campus, for example, as a student or staff member.

Cunningham said one of his goals is to give students a way to make some extra money when they might not have time or a schedule that allows them to hold down part-time jobs.

"A big complaint I've heard from students if they want a part-time job is they need a four- to six-hour block between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which is really hard to do if you’re going to school," he said.

"This allows them to say, 'Hey, if I have an hour between classes, let me jump in my car and see if I can make a little bit of money.'"

Safety features and flat rates are other differences

The app also includes some built-in safety features, such as allowing users to pre-program emergency contacts and send messages if they feel unsafe in the vehicle. It also allows female users to request a female driver if they are traveling alone.

For now, the service only operates within the boundaries of the University of Tennessee campus, Fort Sanders, downtown and the Old City.

Through Friday, Campus Car is offering a flat-rate special of $5. After that the rate will be a flat rate of $5.75.

Prices may also vary for special events, like football games or concerts, but the service will never raise its fare prices when there is a high demand for vehicles and a short supply of drivers available.

Since the launch three weeks ago, Cunningham said demand has been continually growing. If he's successful he said he'd like to take the app to other campuses and continue to run the program even after he graduates.

"I'm looking forward to this game day to see how visitors and everybody coming to the game responds," he said. "This is something that creates more of a student feel in the vehicle. It's nice because when visitors come to campus, alumni, anybody coming to town on game day, they’re supporting a local student whose going to use that money either on tuition or here in the Knoxville area."

Source:  Knoxville News Sentinel, by Rachel Ohm

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

 

 

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